UC Berkeley has suspended a course on male sexuality amid allegations that its students engaged in an orgy at a class party and watched a student coordinator have sex onstage at a strip club.
The university suspended the student-run, for-credit class after its coordinators failed to show up for a meeting last week with a faculty sponsor. Allegations about the course were published Friday in the campus newspaper, the Daily Californian.
UC Berkeley spokeswoman Janet Gilmore said the university is investigating the course and also reviewing its counterpart, a class on female sexuality.
"Obviously, the events described in the Daily Cal are not part of the approved course content," Gilmore said Tuesday. "Right now, we're just trying to find out what happened. We're taking this very seriously."
The faculty sponsor of both classes, Caren Kaplan, who is chair of the Women's Studies Department, could not be reached for comment Tuesday. Neither could students in the course.
The sexuality courses are offered under UC Berkeley's popular "democratic education at California" program, known as "de-cal," and are sponsored but not funded by the university. They are initiated and run by student coordinators with a faculty member responsible for overseeing the content and grades, university officials said.
The roughly 100 offerings for the spring semester include a history of the state of Israel, Greek folk-dancing lessons and a class about blackjack, according to the schedule on the de-cal Web site. Students receive up to 4 units of credit.
The Daily Californian reported Friday that several students involved in the male sexuality class said the orgy occurred at a party held at the home of an instructor and was intended to help students get acquainted. It was not mandatory, an instructor said.
The paper reported students saying some of those who attended played a game in which they privately took Polaroid pictures of their genitalia, with the group later attempting to match the photos with the correct owner.
According to the newspaper, another student said a group of students chose a trip to a gay strip club as their final project, where they watched the class leaders strip and have sex on stage.
The alleged incidents and resulting suspension touched off an uproar this week on the famously liberal campus. In letters Tuesday to the editor of the Daily Californian, several students vigorously defended the sexuality classes. Alumni, in contrast, ridiculed the offerings and threatened to withhold support from the university as a result.
Steve Sexton, news editor of the newspaper, said some students have called the classes among the best at Berkeley, although he has some qualms. "The majority of the class is just like a counseling session, with people talking about their sexual experiences. While that's fine, I don't feel it should be for credit."
Catherine Ahn, an official of the student government organization that sponsors the courses, said most students still support the de-cal program and the sexuality classes because they deal with topics important to students but often taboo in society at large.
Gilmore, the school spokeswoman, said Kaplan called a meeting of coordinators for both the male and female sexuality classes riday and suspended the male class immediately when its coordinator did not appear.